I'm clearly falling short of Gordon's ideal

6th July 2007 at 01:00
Kenny Frederick is head of George Green's Community School in East London

People who don't know schools very well often describe this time of year as the "quiet time". Exams are nearly over and we are all winding down ready for the long summer holidays. In fact, the opposite is true. This time of year is the busiest and it's when my panic list is published.

The senior leadership team really look forward to it! There is so much to do that we all have to do deep-breathing exercises just to keep calm. Things may be simpler in other schools but in one as large and complex as ours, nothing is simple. We have just put the finishing touches to our staffing, and thankfully we have no vacancies.

Some of the issues to resolve in the next three weeks include the completion of the school timetable, the school development plan, updating the self evaluation form, writing the school profile, updating the prospectus, producing numerous reports to governors, organising training plans, and completing performance management reviews for support staff.

In addition, we have Year 10 exams, our Year 11 graduation evening, the Year 6 transition day and new families evening as well as our first ever Year 11 prom. If that wasn't enough, we have our middle and senior leaders' residential this weekend to do some higher-level thinking. No wonder we are all exhausted.

There is barely enough time to do everything we have to do without filling in the huge number of questionnaires and surveys in which we are always "randomly selected" to participate. These surveys are all very worthy, and I would really love to have the time to complete them. But they are never simple and require specific detailed information all very time-consuming. As a lapsed Catholic who lost the religion but not the guilt, I feel I am failing in my duty to provide important information to various organisations. But something has to go. We just cannot do everything.

Our new Prime Minister Gordon Brown is obviously not aware of the demands on heads at this time of year, otherwise he would not have sent us an unsolicited copy of his new book, Courage: Eight Portraits. I presume this present to the school is to mark his new role as premier and I am now wondering what he is trying to tell us. Did he send the same book to the chief executives of major organisations and businesses as well as to politicians, or does he think they are courageous enough? Is it only heads who can benefit from his wisdom? I think we could write the book on the subject!

The book was written during Mr Brown's summer holidays and in the early mornings before he started work. One has to admire his devotion to producing such a worthy tome in his spare time. In this respect, he puts me to shame as I can hardly string two words together during my holidays and go the whole hog as far as rest and relaxation are concerned! When I go away, I do my best to think about nothing more difficult than what (trashy) book to read or what swimsuit to wear. I refuse to exercise my brain to any extent during the holidays as it needs to rest and recover.

Clearly, I am a weakling and now feel guilty (again) about not living up to Gordon's standards. The number of documents heads are supposed to read and digest is daunting. I cannot be the only head who constantly carries a bag of reading material around with them, hoping for a few spare minutes to get to grips with them. Despite this, I find myself suffering even more guilt because I don't read everything I should. What I need is a self-help book on how to cope with guilt rather than how to be more courageous. I wonder if Mr Brown will have time to write it?

Log-in as an existing print or digital subscriber

Forgotten your subscriber ID?


To access this content and the full TES archive, subscribe now.

View subscriber offers


Get TES online and delivered to your door – for less than the price of a coffee

Save 33% off the cover price with this great subscription offer. Every copy delivered to your door by first-class post, plus full access to TES online and the TES app for just £1.90 per week.
Subscribers also enjoy a range of fantastic offers and benefits worth over £270:

  • Discounts off TES Institute courses
  • Access over 200,000 articles in the TES online archive
  • Free Tastecard membership worth £79.99
  • Discounts with Zipcar, Buyagift.com, Virgin Wines and other partners
Order your low-cost subscription today